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Georgia Football

Can Nakobe Dean have a 2017 Roquan Smith-type of season?

April 14, 2021
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Georgia has boasted several talented linebackers over the last 20 seasons, putting their name in the hat to claim “LBU” or “Linebacker University.”

Last season, Monty Rice manned the fort as leader of the Bulldogs’ linebacker unit, but he is now headed to test out the NFL. Rice is no longer on the team, and he took his production with him. 

Nakobe Dean is now in line to be the next great UGA linebacker. He had the production to show it in 2020, where he led the entire team with 64 total tackles. 

What does he have to do to have a similar season to what Roquan Smith produced in 2017 when he won the Dick Butkus Award for the nation’s most outstanding linebacker?

For Dean, nothing different has to be done. 

“I gotta work like I always do. I gotta work hard,” said Dean.

He made it sound pretty simple, and that may truly be the case, but Dean is not getting those reps on the field during spring practice.

Dean is still nursing his right shoulder from when he had surgery to repair his labrum soon after the season concluded. He is missing spring practice and is expected to return before the 2021 season begins. 

No, this is not ideal for a defense that is expecting Dean to be a star. However, he will likely be the quarterback of this defense and help facilitate playcalling. Dean may not be out on the field working on his physical game right now, but this has given him an opportunity to improve his mental game and communication. 

"For the most part I've just been out there coaching,” said Dean. “I've been getting my mental reps and basically just seeing myself out there, making sure everybody is upholding the standard.”

For someone who may very well inherit the role as “the quarterback of the defense,” Dean taking on a coaching role may be a bit of a hidden blessing. Again, him missing time in practice is not helping him because he is losing out on valuable reps, but he does not underestimate the importance of those “mental reps.”

Rice and Richard LeCounte were two of the main leaders on the defense, and both of them are gone. 

Sure, there are some other players on the team that have been there for a couple years, like Jordan Davis or Lewis Cine, but Dean is going to be the man in the middle. 

He already proved he can be the most productive player on the defense, and that was when he was sharing time and production with Rice. 

Smith was the man in 2017. He had 137 total tackles and was top 10 in Heisman voting. That is not easy to replicate. 

Dean is fast and strong. He has instincts. He has the preview of big production.

Now, he is working on his leadership role and coaching abilities?

Dean could be a menace this fall. He has stars written all over him. Now it is just a question of whether or not he can show it by the time the Bulldogs travel to Charlotte to take on Clemson or soon after that.


 

 
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